Environmental Biology & Ecology

Bachelor of Science

Environmental biology and ecology are critical for the protection of living organisms and the environment. Whether you want to be a researcher who monitors air quality, a biologist who protects endangered species or an ecologist who studies oceanic ecosystems, you’ll need a comprehensive understanding of how humans and living organisms interact with the natural world. Environmental Biology & Ecology students have the opportunity to explore numerous public and private lands surrounding campus, including six wilderness areas.

Program Overview

Understand the complex connection between organisms and the environment.

At Western Colorado University, you can explore vast public and private lands—from the sagebrush and lush riparian “lowlands”—to deep forests and rocky alpine crags surrounding campus. You’ll also have the unique opportunity to conduct original fieldwork at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, a world-renowned research station just seven miles north of Crested Butte. Between fieldwork in our expansive natural surroundings and research in our state-of-the-art lab facilities, you’ll get a head start on your professional career by applying theory to practice throughout your time at Western.

Before graduating, we’ll offer you a variety of different networking and internship opportunities with natural resources agencies and the chance to collaborate with faculty on original research in the Thornton Biology Research Program. Because of Western’s low student-to-faculty ration, professors will provide you with one-on-one personal career advising, mentorship opportunities and detailed references.

A vast research laboratory

With Western’s intimate educational experience, students conduct original field research and explore the vast learning laboratories of the Gunnison Valley.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Program Requirements

The Environmental Biology and Ecology Emphasis requires a minimum of 58 credits, including the 26-credit Biology Nucleus, 17 additional credits in Biology, and 15 credits of supporting courses:

All Biology majors require the 26-credit Biology Nucleus.

Biology Nucleus
BIOL 150Biological Principles (with laboratory) (GT-SC1)4
BIOL 151Diversity and Patterns of Life (with laboratory)4
BIOL 301General Ecology3
BIOL 310Cell Biology3
BIOL 312Genetics (with recitation)4
CHEM 111General Chemistry I (GT-SC2)3
CHEM 112General Chemistry Laboratory I (GT-SC1)1
CHEM 113General Chemistry II3
CHEM 114General Chemistry Laboratory II1
Total Credits26
Required Biology Courses
BIOL 302Ecology Laboratory and Recitation2
Select six credits in two or more of the following systems and applications courses:6
BIOL 362
Evolution
BIOL 430
Wildlife Ecology and Management (with laboratory)
BIOL 431
Wildlife Techniques Workshop
BIOL 440
Conservation Biology
BIOL 444
Colorado Ecoregions
BIOL 476
Aquatic Ecology (with laboratory)
BIOL 477
Plant Ecology (with laboratory)
BIOL 481
Forest Ecology (with laboratory)
Select at least two of the following organismal courses:6-8
BIOL 320
Ornithology (with laboratory and recitation)
BIOL 322
Mammalogy (with laboratory and recitation)
BIOL 327
Field Entomology (with laboratory)
BIOL 352
Botany (with laboratory)
BIOL 353
Rocky Mountain Flora
BIOL 355
Spring Fungi Rocky Mountains (with laboratory)
BIOL 467
Fisheries Biology
Select at least two credits of Capstone Experience courses:2
BIOL 495
Senior Seminar (may be repeated)
BIOL 496
Senior Thesis
Total Credits16-18
Minimum Supporting Courses
CHEM 231Introduction to Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry3
CHEM 234Introductory Organic and Biochemistry Laboratory1
GEOL 101Physical Geology (GT-SC2)3
GEOL 105Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1)1
MATH 213Probability and Statistics3
PHYS 140Introductory Physics (with laboratory) (GT-SC1)4
Total Credits15

Capstone Course Requirement

The following courses in the Biology Major fulfill the capstone course requirement: BIOL 495 SENIOR SEMINARBIOL 496 Senior Thesis , or EDUC 409 SECONDARY STUDENT TEACHING.

Graduation Requirements

Undergraduate programs require a minimum of 120 semester credits for graduation.  Of those 120 credits, 40 credits must be in upper-division courses (those marked 300 and above).  Fifteen of these 40 upper-division credits must be earned in courses that are part of the standard or comprehensive major program being pursued. 

Students are expected to review all graduation requirements, which can be found in the Western Undergraduate Catalog: Graduation Requirements

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
FallCredits
BIOL 151 Diversity and Patterns of Life (with laboratory) 4
CHEM 111 General Chemistry I (GT-SC2) 3
CHEM 112 General Chemistry Laboratory I (GT-SC1) 1
ENG 102 Academic Writing (GT-CO1) 3
HWTR 100 First Year Seminar 1
MATH 140 College Algebra (GT-MA1) 3
 Credits15
Spring
BIOL 150 Biological Principles (with laboratory) (GT-SC1) 4
CHEM 113 General Chemistry II 3
CHEM 114 General Chemistry Laboratory II 1
Gen EdArts & Humanities 3
MATH 141 Precalculus (GT-MA1) 4
 Credits15
Year Two
Fall
BIOL 301 General Ecology 3
BIOL 302 Ecology Laboratory and Recitation 2
CHEM 231 Introduction to Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry 3
CHEM 234 Introductory Organic and Biochemistry Laboratory 1
COM 202 Academic Writing and Inquiry (GT-CO2) 3
Gen EdSocial Sciences 3
 Credits15
Spring
BIOL 310 Cell Biology 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities 3
MATH 213 Probability and Statistics 3
PHYS 140 Introductory Physics (with laboratory) (GT-SC1) 4
Gen Ed Social Sciences 3
 Credits16
Year Three
Fall
BIOL 312 Genetics (with recitation) 4
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities 3
Gen EdSocial Sciences 3
GEOL 101 Physical Geology (GT-SC2) 3
GEOL 105 Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1) 1
 Credits14
Spring
BIOL Biology Systems/Apps 3
BIOLBiology Organismal Elective 4
 Credits7
Year Four
Fall
BIOL 495
or BIOL 496
Senior Seminar
or Senior Thesis
2
Biology Systems/Apps 3
 Credits5
Spring
Biology Organismal Elective  
 Credits0
 Total Credits87
 Fall (even years)  Spring (odd years)
BIOL 130 Environmental Biology BIOL 135  Environmental Biology Lab BIOL 150 Biological Principles (with Lab) BIOL 151 Diversity and Patterns of Life (with Lab) BIOL 301 General Ecology BIOL 302 Ecology Lab and Recitation BIOL 310 Cell Biology BIOL 312 Genetics (with Recitation) BIOL 342 Microbiology (with Lab) BIOL 353 Rocky Mountain Flora BIOL 372 Human Anatomy & Physiology I - (with Lab) BIOL 430 Wildlife Ecology & Management (with Lab) BIOL 431 Wildlife Techniques Workshop BIOL 476 Aquatic Ecology (with Lab) BIOL 495 Senior Seminar BIOL 130 Environmental Biology BIOL 135 Environmental Biology Lab BIOL 150 Biological Principles (with Lab) BIOL 151 Diversity and Patterns of Life (with Lab) BIOL 300 Basic Nutrition BIOL 301 General Ecology BIOL 310 Cell Biology BIOL 312 Genetics (with Recitation) BIOL 313 Cell and Genetics Lab BIOL 320 Ornithology (with Recitation and Lab) BIOL 352 Botany (with Lab) BIOL 373 Human Anatomy & Physiology II (with Lab) BIOL 420 Molecular Biology (with Lab) BIOL 440 Conservation Biology BIOL 495 Senior Seminar
Fall (odd years) Spring (even years)
BIOL 130 Environmental Biology BIOL 135 Environmental Biology Lab BIOL 150 Biological Principles (with Lab) BIOL 151 Diversity and Patterns of Life (with Lab) BIOL 301 General Ecology BIOL 302 Ecology Lab and Recitation BIOL 310 Cell Biology BIOL 312 Genetics (with Recitation) BIOL 327 Field Entomology BIOL 342 Microbiology (with Lab) BIOL 362 Evolutionary Biology Theory & Application BIOL 372 Human Anatomy & Physiology I (with Lab) BIOL 444 Colorado Ecoregions BIOL 481 Forest Ecology (with Lab) BIOL 495 Senior Seminar BIOL 130 Environmental Biology BIOL 135 Environmental Biology Lab BIOL 150 Biological Principles (with Lab) BIOL 151 Diversity and Patterns of Life (with Lab) BIOL 300 Basic Nutrition BIOL 301 General Ecology BIOL 310 Cell Biology BIOL 312 Genetics (with Recitation) BIOL 313 Cell and Genetics Lab BIOL 322 Mammalogy (with Lab) BIOL 352 Botany (with Lab) BIOL 373 Human Anatomy & Physiology II (with Lab) BIOL 420 Molecular Biology (with Lab) BIOL 474 Comparative Animal Physiology (with Lab) BIOL 495 Senior Seminar
Some Biology courses are offered sporadically or only in the Summer.  Course examples include: BIOL 120 - Studies in Biology BIOL 353 - Rocky Mountain Flora BIOL 435 - Animal Behavior BIOL 454 - Developmental Biology (with Lab) BIOL 477 - Plant Ecology with Lab

Spotlight

Environmental Biology & Ecology

Jonathan Coop, Ph.D.

Faculty

“We can produce high-quality research and publish papers in scientific journals with our students. We’re out on the cutting edge of our field learning the things we don’t know yet."

Careers

Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.

Scholarships

Eligibility

  • Full-time students who are majoring in Geology, Environment & Sustainability, Environmental Biology or a related field.
  • Must be a junior level (60+ credits)
  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
  • Preference given to students with financial need who are residents of the Western Slope of Colorado and have expressed interest in a career in park operations/park management or a career in the earth sciences

Description

This scholarship is provided by Barbara Kastellic and gifts from others to honor Joseph, who was the first Superintendent of the Black Canyon National Monument from 1975-1984.

Award depends on funds available.

Application:

Complete and submit The Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship application which is available in the Financial Aid Office.

A recommendation and a one-page essay will be needed to complete the application.

Alumni Association Future Alumni Scholarship

The Alumni Association Scholarship is a one-time scholarship of $1,000 and is applicable for the student’s junior or senior year at Western.

Any child or grandchild of an alumni is eligible to receive the Future Alumni Scholarship.

  • This is a one-time non-renewable scholarship of $1,000.
  • Only one Future Alumni Scholarship will be awarded per academic year.
  • GPA must be 3.2 or above (college).

Due date has been extended to April 15 for 2021. An Alumni selection committee, appointed by the Alumni Advisory Board, will review applicants and select awardee by June 1.

Apply

Alumni Legacy Scholarship

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western (incoming freshman or new transfer students are eligible).

Do you have a son or daughter looking at college? Have they considered attending Western? As an alumni, your son, daughter and/or grandchildren are eligible for certain benefits distributed through this scholarship, as follows:

  • This is a one-time scholarship of $1,000.
  • Nominee must be an incoming freshman or new transfer.
  • The cost of orientation is reduced by half (a $45 value).
  • The admission application fee is waived (a $30 value).
  • GPA must be 2.5 or above (high school or college of transfer).

The applicant must fill out the application form found here (click). Application forms are accepted year-round. If the applicant meets the GPA guidelines, the scholarship will be awarded.

Apply

Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

The Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western. This scholarship is not available to midyear transfers or students beginning in the spring semester.

Are you an alumni or employee of Western and know a prospective (or incoming) student who would be a great fit at Western? A recommendation from alumni and employees can support any new student and provide them a $500 scholarship their first year. (Western employees may not recommend a spouse or dependent receiving tuition benefits).

  • Any Western alumni/employee may nominate only one student per academic year to receive the $500 scholarship (distributed $250 per semester).
  • The scholarship is good for the first year only and is non-renewable.
  • The recommended student must be a full-time undergraduate student, attending Western for the first time.

The applicant must fill out the application form found here. The nominating alumni/employee must fill out the application form and submit the required documents by June 1. The recommended student must meet university admissions acceptance standards and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential Promise, visit our scholarships page.

Description

The Western Presidential Honors Scholarships, established by the Jack and Marilyn MacAllister Foundation shall be an elite class of scholarships awarded to Western’s highest achieving and most deserving students, celebrating the ideals of academic excellence and service to the campus and community. Recipients of the Scholarships will be members of the Western Colorado University Honors Program.

There are eight Presidential Honors Scholarships of $2500 each. Each year two new Presidential Honors Scholarships will be awarded to two incoming freshmen.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit our scholarships page.

Get Involved

Make your education a life changing experience.

A college education is so much more than just taking classes. Expand your community and network, while gaining hands-on experience in your field.

  • Research Assistantships: Many professors conduct externally-funded research and often employ students.
  • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory: Western biologists and students collaborate with the world-renowned research station seven miles north of Crested Butte.
  • Thornton Biology Research Program: Students collaborate with faculty (and can receive funding) on original research.
  • Tri Beta and the Wildlife Society: Student-run clubs that provide professional development, training, networking, internships and field experiences.

Taking class outside

Wildlife ecology students raft the Gunnison River for a river otter survey.

News & Research

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Western professor publishes book focused on sustainability in business

Western professor publishes book focused on sustainability in business

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Western professors, grad students advocate for sustainability at UN Food and Agriculture Organization meeting

Western professors, grad students advocate for sustainability at UN Food and Agriculture Organization meeting

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Western Faculty Work to Preserve Nature with the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative

Western Faculty Work to Preserve Nature with the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative

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Western Professor and Students Publish Study on Fire Ecology

Western Professor and Students Publish Study on Fire Ecology

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Western receives 20K to fund Open Educational Resources

Western receives 20K to fund Open Educational Resources

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Western’s MEM program helps start ecological restoration in Gunnison Valley

Western’s MEM program helps start ecological restoration in Gunnison Valley

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Additional Resources

Thornton Biology Research Program

The Thornton Biology Research Program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to work with faculty on funded, original research.

Learn More

Department Chairperson

Robin A. Bingham, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology

Administrative Assistant

Samantha Siegfried

Administrative Assistant for NES

Contact Information

970.943.2015

rbingham@western.edu

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Hurst Hall 128
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231